The Cave

Second year graduate student in clinical psychology, and sometimes I write things

Image of Long Story Short Award - 2022
Image of Short Fiction
The hall closet was tall enough to stand in at the very front, but farther in it sloped smaller and smaller as the stairs above it descended. At about the point where an adult would be on all fours, there was a small opening, just large enough for one person to fit through. Though covering it now there are jackets and large empty picture frames and unmarked cardboard boxes filled with family treasures and forgotten junk alike, at one time it was almost free passage from the outside world to that little opening. Once through, the space opened up on either side to become wider than the closet opening.

A little girl of nine and a boy of twelve could find their way back to the small dark square at the back of the closet quite easily. Brother and sister alike could maneuver nimbly through unused golf clubs and raincoats, the first line of defense to prying eyes. The larger, more achy members of the family steered clear of anything that put them in a crouch. So this land was unfettered by parental supervision; it was a world of unbridled adventure, complete freedom in a 3 by 7 foot space. Slowly, old ugly pillows found their way back there along with roman candles filched from the sitting room drawers. It was a castle all their own.

Sometimes they played in there together, but the little girl liked it best by herself. She could light the candle with a match and watch the wax drip slowly onto the congealed puddles that were remnants of other candles lit and burned, embedded into the carpet. She watched the light dance on the walls around her, and if she crawled to the very end of the small space she could believe she was alone. The square to the outside world at her toes, but her head back against the wall, she could let her hazel honey eyes adjust. As her pupils dilated, she thought she could hear the battalions outside her cave, clicking swords and armor, readying themselves for whatever was to come.

She looked around her home, her battle station, where with the help of her friends she could plan their attack on the sorcerer lands away. She sat in a crouch and addressed her council in the courageous voice of every boy hero in every adventure and fantasy book she had read. She spoke loudly and clearly, though her lips moved silently. Her comrades looked at her for inspiration, to be the one to lead them all to the happily ever after that they all deserved. She pursed her lips and sweaty palms pushed the yellow-brown frizzy hair out of her face.

Together, she said, we must find peace with Malakai, we must stop him from stealing our light to feed his darkness! Donny, her trusted companion, nodded vigorously in front of her, his droopy ears flapping around his snout. His eyes looked up trustingly as he asked what they should do. She looked over to the opening of her cave where her dearest friend had just stuck his enormous head through, blocking what little light there was. His yellow eyes reflected his own light into the space around him. Slowly he spoke. Sophia, you must not ask these people to fight for you if their lives can be spared. She furrowed her brow, the fate of a kingdom weighing heavily on her shoulders. She reached out to stroke the face of her friend, her hand smaller than his nostril. His scaly green skin felt rough under her soft fingers, and she could feel the thousands of years etched into every groove. It wasn't often a dragon would speak to a human, let alone allow one to touch him. She looked into his eyes and promised, "I will fix this."

She startled herself a little by speaking out loud and glanced around quickly at the square space around her. I have to fix this.

As her eyes dilated again, she picked up her rucksack and prepared for her journey. She thought of every little thing she needed; anachronisms of canned beans and ancient scrolls jumbled together in the leather sack. "IT'S TIME!" She whispered as she charged out of the cave. She blinked several times as her eyes adjusted to the light.

She smelled keema and rice and squinted up to the light filtering through overcoats and snow jackets. Her mom's voice pierced through the door, "It's time for dinner, Sophia. Go wash your hands and say Bismillah before you come to the table." The little girl sighed and looked over her shoulder. She thought she could see the glint of a dragon's scale through the dark square. The kingdom would have to wait.